Disappearing glaciers- effects for life on the Bolivian Altiplano

For 100s of old ages the dwellers of the Bolivian Altiplano have relied on Andean glaciers for imbibing H2O, harvest irrigation and even infrigidation ( Climate Institute 2008 ) . Increasing temperatures caused by planetary heating are runing these glaciers, doing them disappear, doing H2O supply uncertain. Life on the altiplano without a secure H2O supply will be even more hard than it already is. This essay will concentrate on the impacts of the vanishing glaciers on the people of the Bolivian Altiplano, the effects of holding an undependable H2O supply, and what should be done to guarantee these disadvantaged people have entree to H2O, which is a basic human rights issue.

Bolivia is one of the poorest states in Latin America and the poorest in South America. Its gross domestic merchandise ( GDP ) in 2009 was $ 17 billion and its GDP per capita was $ 1,758 ( Winters 2012 ) . It is besides one of the states most affected by clime alteration in the universe ( Marengo et al. 2011 ) . Temperature increases in the Central Andean part are more than 70 per cent of the planetary norm, lifting 0.34°C between 1974 and 1998 ( Gomree 2009 ) . A landlocked state with a diverse scope of ecosystems, Bolivia is home to 20 per cent of the world’s glaciers. The metropoliss of La Paz and El Alto sit high on the altiplano at 4000m above sea degree, and are largely inhabited by native Bolivians. The altiplano is where the most intense poorness is found ( Winters 2012 ) . The two million people populating in the metropoliss of La Paz and El Alto are peculiarly vulnerable to the disappearing of these glaciers, as most of their drinkable H2O comes from glacier thaw. Thousands of autochthonal people besides depend on the glaciers for harvest irrigation. Subsistence agribusiness systems are being affected by the addition in temperature and altered rainfall forms and could set the figure of people at hazard of hungriness into the 1000000s in Bolivia entirely ( Oxfam International 2009 ) . Without glaciers, these people will hold to depend on merely 400mm of rain per twelvemonth for their H2O supply ( Zhou 2009 ) .

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Once a familiar sight to the Bolivian people, the Chacaltaya Glacier has now disappeared ( Rosenthal 2009 ) . At an height of 5260m above sea degree, the glacier was the world’s highest ski resort until a few old ages ago. Over the period 1992 to 2005, the glacier lost 97 per cent of its volume ( Bateset Al.2008 ) ; the glacier is now merely no longer at that place. This narrative repeats itself throughout the Andes.

The disappearing of the glaciers is besides impacting electricity supply ( Bateset Al.2008 ) . Siting on the spinal column of the Andes, a hydro-electric dike generates 80 per cent of La Paz ‘s power. It relies chiefly on glacier run-off to drive the turbines. Without any H2O there will be no electricity ; being such a hapless state Bolivia can non afford to construct monolithic rain catchment dike.

Adding to the convulsion of withdrawing glaciers as a menace to the H2O supply, in the late 1990’s the World Bank forced the Bolivian authorities to privatize the H2O supply ( Earth Justice 2003 ) . Bolivia ‘s famed “ H2O war ”

Figure 2: Projected thaw of Chacaltaya glacier before its disappearing in 2009.

hypertext transfer protocol: //www.prwatch.org/news/2009/12/8782/deal-or-no-deal-cop15

was a direct consequence of a World Bank enterprise affecting Bechtel, an international undertaking direction company. When the monetary value of H2O tripled after denationalization was introduced, 1000s took to the streets until the authorities backed down and told the company to go forth ( Barlow & A ; Clarke 2004 ) . The rate hikings sparked citywide protests that the Bolivian authorities tried to stop by declaring a province of soldierly jurisprudence and deploying 1000s of soldiers and constabularies ( Earth Justice 2003 ) . Although peace has returned, dependable H2O supply is still a job in Bolivia ; entree to H2O in rural countries is merely 71 per centum, while sanitation coverage is frequently every bit low as 10 per centum ( Strother 2013 ) .

This go oning H2O job is a human-centered and a human rights issue that must be addressed from a public policy position. Oxfam International ( 2009 ) states that H2O storage and direction should be made a precedence, and that H2O substructure should be overhauled to avoid H2O loss.

Bolivia’s poorness makes it even more vulnerable to the effects of clime alteration as it can non afford to implement version or extenuation steps. Bolivia, as a Kyoto Protocol signatory developing state had entree to financess to develop a National Plan. Now that the Kyoto Protocol has failed to run into its ends, what will go on? Bolivia must go on to be active voice in future international understandings to retain chances for development.


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Bates, B C, Kundzewicz Z W, Wu, S and Palutikof, J P, Eds. , 2008: Climate Change and Water, Technical Paper of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC Secretariat, Geneva, 210 pp.

Climate Institute, 2008, Latin Americans thirst for alternate to glacier. Climate Alert vol. 17, no.3, Washington, DC & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www.climate.org/ publications/ Climate % 20Alerts/ 2008-winter.pdf. & gt ; viewed 11 June 2014.

Earth Justice, 2003, Secretive World Bank Tribunal Bans Public and Media Participation in Bechtel Lawsuit over Access to Water, hypertext transfer protocol: //earthjustice.org/news/press/2003/secretive-world-bank-tribunal-bans-public-and-media-participation-in-bechtel-lawsuit-over-access-to-water & gt ; viewed 6 June 2014.

Gomree, L 2009, ‘Climate Change in Latin America’ , EuropeAid, Development Cooperation in Latin America, European Commission.

Marengo, J A, Pabon, J D, Diaz A, Rosas G, Avalos G, Montealegre E, Villacis M, Solman S, and Rojas, M 2011, Climate alteration: grounds and future scenarios for the Andean part, pp. 110-127.

Oxfam International 2009, ‘Bolivia: Climate alteration, poorness and adaptation’ , hypertext transfer protocol: //oxf.am/ZRc, viewed 10 June 2014

Rosenthal, E 2009, The New York Times, In Bolivia, Water and Ice Tell of Climate Change, hypertext transfer protocol: //www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/science/earth/14bolivia.html & gt ; viewed 6 June 2014

Strother, E 2013, On Water Scarcity and the Right to Life: Bolivia, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, hypertext transfer protocol: //www.coha.org/on-water-scarcity-and-the-right-to-life-bolivia/

Winters, C 2012, Impact of Climate Change on the Poor in Bolivia, Global Majority E-Journal, vol. 3, no 1, pp, 33-43.

Zhou, R 2009, Bolivia’s meltdown, Reportage/Enviro, hypertext transfer protocol: //www.reportage-enviro.com/2009/09/update-bolivias-glacier-crisis/ viewed 6 June 2014.

Map courtesy of:

hypertext transfer protocol: //tarijainfo.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/why-tarija-is-best-place-in-bolivia.html

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